Empowering Vulnerable Youth in Chad with Essential Life Skills
Blue Cross Chad has found that amongst the main risk factors associated with the onset of alcohol dependence are a difficult social environment, discontinuing school and exposure to networks of peers who are already dependant or demonstrate high risk behaviour. Blue Cross Chad is therefore reaching out to and assisting disadvantaged children from difficult backgrounds who are threatened by school failure and often belong to families affected by alcohol-related harm.
In many African countries alcohol and drug prevention is still in its infancy however recently Africa recorded a disturbing increase in alcohol consumption of more than 25.3%, while consumption has remained stable throughout the world (WHO 2011). Substance abuse contributes to problems like the spread of disease, including HIV/AIDS, crime and prostitution and there are limited resources to deal with the prevention of alcohol and drug use in African and around the world.
The growing alcohol consumption in Africa and the early age of onset make the introduction of effective prevention programs in schools particularly important. In the field of addiction prevention, such programs are non-existent in many countries.
Chad, the fifth largest country in Africa, is not an exception to this. Despite the 70% of life-time abstainers, it has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the world. Total per capita consumption (drinkers only) per year amounts to 33.9 litres of pure alcohol (Switzerland: 12.1 litres).
The Life Skills and Peer Education project in Ndjamena is a holistic prevention program for disadvantaged youth in the field of alcohol, drugs and HIV/AIDS. It promotes behavior change through peer education and the development of essential life skills. Peer education is based on role modeling and the ability of young people to become leaders and agents of change through empowerment and support. The peer leaders are trained and coached to nurture the development of social and interpersonal competencies such as the ability to communicate, take informed decisions, gain increased self-esteem, cope with pro¬blems in a healthy, non-violent manner and resolve conflicts. These competencies are called life skills. While this approach has proven successful in creating behavior change in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, the International Blue Cross is now pioneering it in the field of alcohol and drugs.
In addition to the life skills lessons taught in public high schools, Blue Cross Chad will, through this project, also target a specific group of out-of-school youth, namely young motorcycle taxi drivers. Alcohol use as well as the use of a prescription drug called Tramadol are rampant among this group and lead to frequent road accidents putting at harm the drivers as well as their clients.
An additional focus of this project is on the implementation of alcohol policy measures – especially in the field of youth protection – through targeted community action involving local leaders, teachers and parents. These structural measures complement the preventive measures as described above by reducing youth access to alcohol and underage drinking.
The main project objective is to redu¬ce alcohol consumption among adolescents in Ndjamena. Preventing substance abuse among youth decreases violence and the spread of disease, which allows children to lead a more productive, healthy life.
The Direct beneficiaries of this project represent some 13’500 persons, which are in- and out-of-school youth – namely high schools students, and motorcycle taxi drivers – in the city of N'Djamena as well as teachers, community leaders and parents involved in the different awareness raising campaigns and prevention activities.
• Raising awareness of alcohol and drugs issues among at least 10,000 pupils through prevention campaigns in and outside school.
• Providing weekly life skills lessons to around 2,000 pupils at four secondary schools in Ndjamena
• Providing life skills coaching to 100 motorbike taxi drivers at their ranks
• Publication of a life skills handbook with practical instructions on teaching life skills in schools
• Training of 300 youth peer educators to oversee free-time activities – e.g. football or theatre – in Life Skills Clubs
• Training of 60 adults – preferably parents and teachers – in “Addiction and the Life Skills Approach to Dealing with Teenagers“
• Community work with parents, teachers and communities in the surrounding neighbourhoods of the targeted schools with special attention to the sensitization to alcohol law and the enforcement of the protection of minors.
Key Achievements to Date
• Increased awareness of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse among both the students as well as the teachers.
• Reduction of the drug trade of Tramadol (opiates-based drug) at participating schools.
• Appreciation of the students who report experiencing, for the first time in their lives, participatory teaching methods (role plays, discussions, etc.).
• Development of an Africa-specific Life Skills Manual for Peer Educators (PDF available from IFBC upon request).
Project Duration: 2013 - 2020
Your Participation is Welcome and Vital!
Much progress has been made, however Blue Cross Chad is still short of notebooks, pens, textbooks, gym shoes, and theatre costumes for the courses. Our appeal to our readers is to help Blue Cross Chad acquire these commonplace, yet much needed materials.
This is an IFBC funded project with support from SDC, Brot für Alle, and the Katholische Kirche Bern.
Click here to make a donation towards this project.